Feb 6, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Rasir Bolton (45) shoots against the Oklahoma Sooners during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
If finding a way to get into the win column would be a complete 180-degree turn from where Iowa State men’s basketball was last week, we will call what they did on Saturday a 170-degree turn.
Just one week after losing by nearly 40 points on the road to an average Mississippi State team, the Cyclones went toe-to-toe with another top-25 opponent, this time No. 9 Oklahoma in Norman, before falling 79-72 and to 0-8 in Big 12 play.
The Cyclones were helped by their most prolific shooting performance of the year, knocking down a season-high 16 3-pointers at a 51.6 percent clip. The offense was held back by a dismal performance from inside-the-arc as they connected on just 11 of their 40 2-point attempts and went scoreless for a nearly five-minute stretch near the mid-point of the second half that allowed Oklahoma to build a 10-point lead and dig a hole too deep for the Cyclones to climb out of.
Rasir Bolton played one of his best games of the season by scoring 21 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field, 5-of-8 from 3-point range, plus grabbing seven rebounds and dishing four assists with just one turnover.
Bolton was joined in double-figures by Solomon Young, who scored 12 points on 6-of-16 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. Jalen Coleman-Lands scored 11 points, all of them coming in the first half, and Javan Johnson scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in his first game back from the program’s health and safety protocols.
While the winning circle still remains elusive for Iowa State, it is certainly encouraging to see the team bounce back from, first, its embarrassing home loss to Texas Tech in early January, the subsequent two-plus week COVID-19 pause and then a tough loss to Oklahoma State and the aforementioned game against Mississippi State, in the fashion they did this week.
The Cyclones have shared the ball better than they did previously in the year even before the COVID pause and assisted on 14 of their 27 field goals against the Sooners while turning it over 10 times, which is a considerable improvement from other stretches earlier in the year.
There are certainly still a number of things that need major improvement before they can be a consistent winner in the league, including 2-point shooting, rebounding and interior defense, but they feel a lot closer to getting any sort of win than they did late last Saturday night.
The Cyclones weren’t quite able to make that full 180-degree turn, but they’re showing signs of having a chance to do so. A game on the road against TCU on Tuesday and an extremely rare in-league back-to-back against Kansas on Thursday and Saturday await as opportunities to get over the winning hump.